Posted 11 months ago on April 25, 2013, 5:57 a.m. EST by quantumystic
from Memphis, TN
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
By Amie Crawford April 25, 2013
Wednesday was a day I will never forget.
I stood up with hundreds of Chicago retail and fast-food workers, marching through the Loop and Magnificent Mile, chanting "You can't survive on $8.25." As exciting and empowering as that was, I never imagined that, at 56, I'd be taking to the streets fighting for decent wages.
When I moved to Chicago for family reasons 18 months ago, the idea that I'd be working at a fast-food restaurant, earning barely more than the minimum wage, never even remotely crossed my mind. After all, I'd always played by the rules. After high school, I earned a degree in interior design and advanced in my profession for more than 30 years. I had a good salary, health insurance, profit sharing, paid sick days and weeks of vacation. I was comfortably middle class. And then the recession hit. Unable to find a job in the design field after months of searching, I took a job in a fast-food restaurant to pay the bills.
Every day since has been a struggle. I was hired for full-time work, but I rarely get more than 30 hours a week and typically receive far less. One day last week I was scheduled for only two hours. There are no paid sick days and no health insurance or benefits of any kind. I rely on food assistance and my savings to survive.
And I am not alone. In Chicago, jobs that are considered low-wage now make up about a third of all jobs, and this proportion has increased significantly over the last decade-plus. Nationwide, nearly 60 percent of the jobs gained since the recovery began are low-wage jobs, like those in food service and retail. That means there are many people like me living paycheck to paycheck with their middle-class jobs long gone.
To make matters worse, economists estimate that by 2020 almost half of all workers will be in minimum- or low-wage jobs. How can we possibly sustain our economy when half of our workers don't have any money to spend? If all Chicago restaurant and retail workers earned $15 an hour, half a billion dollars would be put back into the local economy.
More than $4 billion a year goes through the cash registers of the businesses on and around the Magnificent Mile. But the Magnificent Mile is not magnificent for us. While corporate profits soar to all-time highs, we aren't paid enough to keep a roof over our heads and care for our families. .
We've had enough. Inspired by the strikes in New York and by the Black Friday strike by Wal-Mart workers and with the support of clergy, community groups and labor organizations, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago decided it was time to come out of the shadows and protested Wednesday for $15 an hour — the bare minimum we need to afford the basics like rent and food — and the right to form a union without intimidation or retaliation.
We are just getting started and we will not go away.